Eleven weeks sure do fly by when you’re having fun. I swear I was just sitting in a room with 30 strangers learning about what the difference between a national park and monument was. Those strangers and I have since been seamlessly woven into the story quilt of Jewel Cave that will live on in the decades to come (How’s this for a cheesy metaphor?). But all jokes aside, I’m immensely honored to have taken part in this internship. I was able to develop professionally while serving my country by helping conserve one of its finest public lands. As a resource management intern, I learned how vital conservation work is. It’s not easy; decision-makers walk a thin line between preserving and developing resources to ensure the public gets the best experience. From simple maintenance to shaping the park’s short-term goals, many considerations must be made before a single action can be made. As a geology intern, it was exactly the type of experience I was hoping for: working with a senior geologist, developing my abilities, learning new skills, and networking with some brilliant minds. Although my internship is finished, my work is not. Mike, Hunter, and I will continue refining theories relating to Jewel Cave and the Black Hills.

Me (second from the right) with a bunch of my Jewel Cave friends. Mt. Rushmore is behind us, but it’s too dark to see.

I’d like to spend this moment to recognize several entities that contributed to my success this summer:

  • Environment for the Americas and the National Park Service for selecting me for this rewarding opportunity that I will value for the rest of my life.
  • Mike Wiles for imparting invaluable knowledge about geology, resource management, philosophy, and pragmatism.
  • Dan Austin and Hunter for shaping me into a proper caver.
  • Arjan for all the silly moments.
  • Bradley Block for cultivating a welcoming experience in and out of the park.
  • The talented staff at Jewel Cave who inspired me to give my best every day.
  • The various employees from I&M, DSC, MWRO, MWAC, and other divisions for teaching me about all the behind-the-scenes work that keeps the NPS running smoothly.
  • My roommates Kevin, Andy, and Matt for keeping me grounded and sharing their experiences.

 

Finally, I’d like to thank you, the reader, for following me on this amazing journey. If you enjoyed reading about my adventures, please visit or volunteer at your local state and national parks. They are our nation’s greatest treasures.

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